I’ve been in New York a month now. A whole month.
I fly back to California Sunday morning, and this afternoon, I boarded my last B63 bus that would take me down twenty-five blocks of 5th Avenue before stopping right at the doorstep of Kos Roasting House, my favorite coffee shop in Brooklyn. I have loved writing here over the last month. The walls are white and bright and it’s filled with mini cafe tables, potted plants, and a wall of antique portraits.
The majority of May has been rainy and freezing, so I have spent a lot of time staring out the large windows of the cafe, pondering my next sentence as drops of water roll down the glass and people outside scurry through the wet streets.
Two days ago, however, the weather took a dramatic turn and it became summer overnight. The sun overtook the entire sky and and it has been accompanied by a drenching, unrelenting humidity that has even ME -- who is freezing a good ninety-five percent of my life -- reaching for ice cubes and ceiling fans and taking cold showers. I shared this fact with Paul over the phone and he just about died of shock. Back in Long Beach, we are forever locked in a battle over his need for air conditioning and my subsequent need for warm blankets. But I digress . . .
This drastic change in weather, combined with the holiday weekend, makes tomorrow the perfect beach day. I plan to wake early, write from my friend’s apartment, then head out to Rockaway Beach where no doubt half of Manhattan will be celebrating Memorial Day weekend. It’s sure to be a sweaty and chaotic mess of sand and booze and day glow legs that haven’t seen the sun in many moons.
As long as I can jump in the Atlantic Ocean, none of the rest will faze me -- not even the fact that I am going all by myself.
All this alone time has been an adjustment to say the least. Whenever I see something beautiful, I snap a picture of it and text it to Paul. We’ve also been talking every day and having twice weekly “happy hours” whereby we each walk to our local liquor store, pick up a beer, and drink them together via Gmail’s video chat. It’s definitely helped close the gap and make the distance feel smaller. In a way, it’s even been fun because it feels as if we are dating again -- boyfriend and girlfriend calling each other to say goodnight and gab about our days.
But other than conversations with him and my mom and a few meetings with old friends in The City, I have been all by my lonesome.
The quiet and the solitude has pushed me and pulled me, as I knew that it would. It’s amazing what you can discover about yourself when all the noise and distractions begin to vanish.
The first thing that happened was that I couldn’t write.
Author, Dani Shapiro, describes it best in her book Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. She describes the first time she was assigned an article for the New Yorker, a longtime dream of hers (and pretty much every other writer on the planet!). She says:
“In the days and weeks after landing the assignment, I sat down each morning to write, and nothing happened . . . I grew tense. I was strangled by my own ego, by my own petty desire for what I perceived to be the literary brass ring. I was missing the point, of course. The reward is in the doing. Most published writers will tell you that the moment they hold the book, or the prestigious magazine piece, or the good review or the whatever in their hands -- that moment is curiously hollow. It can’t live up to the sweat, the solitude, the bloody battle that it represents.”
A brass ring that, once obtained, completely freaked me out.
What if I can’t do this? What if I don’t get enough done while I’m here? What if this book sucks and I disappoint all the donors and the people who are counting on me to write it?
It was like being in a pressure chamber, the thoughts echoing all around me.
As a method of escape, I tried something I have never really done in the midst of writer’s block: I worshiped.
Maybe it was being alone that precipitated this? Maybe it was the lack of other options and usual distractions? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I logged into itunes and pulled up my favorite album by Steffany Gretzinger. It’s called The Undoing and in this video, she explain that part of it was written out of a place of extreme fear and doubt in her own ability to create and to write music. In the process of pushing through the pain and discomfort -- what felt like impending failure -- she wrote some of the most beautiful, honest lyrics. She cried out to God, and as I listened and worshiped, I found that her cries echoed my own.
And just worshiping opened up so much inside my mind and my heart. It showed me how to lay down my ego and my fear, it brought me to this point of honestly longing for Jesus like never before. It was actually really cool. In retrospect. At the time of actual worshiping and crying, it was not so cool. But in retrospect . . .
That was the starting point of my time in New York, and to recount everything I have learned and gained over these last four weeks, would be far too much for one blog post, but I do hope to share more with you in the future.
Until then, I have lots of packing and cleaning and laundry to do before I can frolic on the beach tomorrow afternoon!
Lots of love,
~ Christy ~